Some posts here on V&V contain affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you click or book from one of these links – at no extra expense to you. Read more about this in my Privacy Policy.

Since we moved to the Bay Area a few years ago, one of my favorite parts has been exploring all the region has to offer. From the arid south to wine country in the north, the misty Pacific Coast to the forested mountain ranges – oh, and let’s not forget the islands, waterways, and cities that make up the San Francisco Bay Area itself… You could spend an entire life taking weekend getaways in the Bay Area and never run out of things to do!

In this post, I’ve pulled together a list of the best weekend trips using San Francisco as a base – the travel times and distances might vary if you’re setting out from a different part of the Bay Area. I limited the list to places within a 100-minute trip from San Francisco. You won’t find places like Tahoe or Yosemite on this list, but you will find other incredible places to experience, whether you’re craving a different urban scene or a total outdoors retreat.

Whether you’re from the Bay Area or visiting and want to explore more of the region with a few extra days, you’ll find inspiration here. Read on for some of the best weekend trips in the Bay Area, from Angel Island to Tiburon and many more.

Angel Island

Bay Area Weekend Trips - Angel Island
  • Distance from San Francisco: 5.5 miles across the Bay
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 15 minutes by Ferry
  • Best Season to Visit: Spring, Summer, Autumn
  • Accommodation Options: Camping via the State Park Website

Most people visit Angel Island as part of a day trip; that’s how I’ve always visited too. But if you love the idea of camping in an urban-adjacent area that isn’t too crowded, Angel Island is your best bet. Once the final ferry of the night leaves the island, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled a world away from the rest of the Bay Area – but views of the city, Bay Bridge, and Golden Gate Bridges will feel comforting.

Spend your weekend days hiking, cycling, and learning about the history of this former military post, now state park. At night, you can stay in one of nine camping areas. They’re grouped into three general areas of the island: East Bay, Ridge, and Sunrise. You can pack in all your own supplies, or enjoy the cafe on the island.

Berkeley

  • Distance from San Francisco: 13 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 18 minutes by car, 24 minutes by BART
  • Best Season to Visit: Autumn
  • Accommodation Options: The Hotel Shattuck Plaza is right in the heart of Berkeley; if you want to splurge, The Claremont Club & Spa is worth every penny. This Berkeley apartment on Airbnb is close to a BART station, and another good option.

I can’t highlight so many other East Bay destinations and not include Berkeley, with it’s own quirky flavor of Bay Area. Actually, quirky sounds diminutive: Berkeley has a rich cultural heritage including student activism and in the civil rights movement advanced by the Black Panthers. While these roots might not be obvious today, they have played a role in how the city views itself and what goes.

For a weekend getaway in Berkeley, base yourself near the intersection of University and Shattuck. You can stroll up to the Cal campus, hike into the Berkeley hills, dine in the Gourmet Ghetto, or head out toward the Berkeley Marina. There are also great museums and other arts experiences for those who love that kind of thing.

Bolinas

40 Before 40 - Surfing 3
  • Distance from San Francisco: 30 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 65 minutes by car
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer, Autumn
  • Accommodation Options: There are no hotels in Bolinas, but this Bolinas Ocean View Retreat on Airbnb is light-filled and a great location.

I love Bolinas for one main reason: they so don’t want visitors that locals are known for removing the signs along Highway 1 so nobody knows where the turn is. But people do know where the turn is, and now you will too (it’s the first main intersection north of Stinson Beach).

Bolinas is a weekend destination that’s perfect if you want to escape and unwind; the town is known for great surfing and beachcombing, and not a ton else. You can visit nearby Stinson Beach if you want to stretch out and enjoy some sunbathing.

Half-Moon Bay

Bay Area Weekend Getaways - Half Moon Bay
  • Distance from San Francisco: 30 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 35-40 minutes by car
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer, Autumn
  • Accommodation Options: Stay right on the water at the Cypress Inn on Miramar, or splurge at the Ritz. This Seaside Retreat is a good option on Airbnb.

Here’s another beach getaway for you: Half-Moon Bay is located down on the San Mateo Peninsula, and a popular playground for those who live on the Bay side of the peninsula.

Depending on the weather, you can spend a weekend trip to Half-Moon Bay strolling along Dunes Beach or Roosevelt Beach, hike along the California Coastal Trail, or tee up at The Old Course or the Ocean Course. You can also base yourself in Half-Moon Bay to explore the Redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Mt. Diablo

Bay Area Weekend Getaways - Mt. Diablo
  • Distance from San Francisco: 45 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 100 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Autumn, Winter, Spring
  • Accommodation Options: Camping via the State Park Website

A weekend getaway to Mt. Diablo might not be up everyone’s alley, but it’s one that’s been on my Bay Area bucket list ever since I first visited the area.

Mt. Diablo is what geologists call an “upthrust peak” – an unusually high mountain at a whopping 3,849 feet in elevation, making it the fourth-highest mountain in the Bay Area. (Yeah yeah, I know, the Sierras put it to shame!)

What makes Mt. Diablo special is that it’s a state park, and perfect for a weekend getaway where you want to be out in the Great Outdoors. There are two campgrounds on the mountain, Live Oak and Juniper; there are a number of hiking trails; and there’s a visitor center open daily with epic views of the surrounding area.

Muir Beach

  • Distance from San Francisco: 18 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 42 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-Round
  • Accommodation Options: There’s one hotel choice, and it’s a great one: The Pelican Inn. Otherwise, consider the Love Shack on Airbnb (not dodgy!).

Muir Beach might not seem like a weekend getaway destination – but I challenge you to take a look at these photos of the namesake beach and browse the rooms at the British-style Pelican Inn and not start craving a weekend here, away from the chaos of the Bay Area. Best of all, it takes only a short drive up over the Marin Headlands to reach this oasis of calm.

Plan ahead though: the Pelican Inn books up well in advance (because, I mean, just look at it). Spend time each day strolling along Muir Beach, admire the view from the Muir Beach Overlook, or take a hike along Owl Trail or the Coastal Trail to the south.

Napa

  • Distance from San Francisco: 47 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 55-60 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-Round
  • Accommodation Options: I stayed at the River Terrace Inn during my stay; the Andaz is right in the heart of downtown. This Colorful Napa Townhome on Airbnb is a good option too.

Most people lump the town of Napa in with the rest of Napa County, but as I’ve spent three days in Napa without exploring the rest of the county, I want to call out what makes the namesake town worth planning its own weekend for.

Napa has undergone a great renaissance; you can find fabulous food and wine here, of course, but also a lot more. There’s craft beer and artisan chocolate, plenty of art galleries worth browsing, and you can even take a gondola ride on the Napa river.

Base yourself in the heart of downtown so you can easily walk around; there are tasting rooms in the area and you won’t have to worry about driving.

Napa County

  • Distance from San Francisco: ~65 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 80 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-Round
  • Accommodation Options: Depends on where you go, but prepare your budget accordingly – Napa isn’t cheap.

Everyone knows what Napa County is great for: wine and food. So if you feel like you’ve eaten everywhere in town and drank all the wine you stockpiled during the pandemic, Napa County is the place to retreat for a weekend.

While you’re there, you can of course do a wine tasting or two; it’s also popular to go cycling (though it’s really up to you how long you ride for!), and hot air ballooning has become a splurge-worthy activity on mornings with good conditions in the non-smoky season.

Oakland

  • Distance from San Francisco: 12 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 17 minutes by car, 13 minutes by BART
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-Round
  • Accommodation Options: Opt for the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, or try the Trending Inn downtown. This Remodeled Craftsman Airbnb in Rockridge is pretty fabulous too.

I’m starting with the first place I really explored in the Bay Area before even moving here in 2017: Oakland! (Okay, to be fair, I lived in Oakland after moving here, but that was because I enjoyed it so much following a trip I took here for work earlier that year.)

While I no longer call Oakland home (more on that later!), I still think it’s one of the most underrated weekend getaways in the Bay Area. Whether you explore downtown Oakland, rub elbows with the tourists in Jack London Square, stroll around Lake Merritt (my old stomping grounds), head up to hipster haven Rockridge, or wander into the Oakland hills in search of Redwoods (yep, there are some!)… as you can tell, there’s a lot to do during a weekend trip in Oakland!

Pacifica

2020 Mantra - Sunset
  • Distance from San Francisco: 15 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 17 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-Round
  • Accommodation Options: Stay right on the water at the Pacifica Beach Hotel, or at this Luxury Beach View Apartment on Airbnb – just look at that patio view!

Most people breeze through Pacifica en route to somewhere else: it’s the first town south of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway – and not quite far enough to generally merit its own stop.

That makes it a perfect weekend destination from the Bay Area: you might encounter other locals, but few tourists. Pacifica is a great spot for surfing under the right conditions, and there are great restaurants with fresh seafood. There are a number of great hiking trails in Mori Point too, if you want to stretch your legs and enjoy the sea air.

Point Reyes & Tomales Bay

  • Distance from San Francisco: 43 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 70 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-Round
  • Accommodation Options: Try the brand new Olema House, or splurge at Nick’s Cove. The Lovers Landing Airbnb in Inverness is a good option.

If I moved beyond the Bay Area permanently – which I couldn’t ever do, because I’d be too far from an airport! – Point Reyes is where I would go. This area is wonderfully unusual: coastal fog meets hot, dry inland climate, Tomales Bay stretches deep into the area, creating Point Reyes, providing fresh seafood and plenty of places to play.

This is a big area, so where you choose to stay will have an impact on your experience. You could stay out in Marshall at Nick’s Cove in their overwater accommodation, and spend the weekend noshing on fresh seafood. Or, over in Inverness and exploring Point Reyes’ many hiking trails. For one final options, there’s a new development in Olema that has everything you need for a restful weekend with great food too.

Sacramento

  • Distance from San Francisco: 90 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 80 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Spring, Autumn
  • Accommodation Options: Stay downtown at The Citizen Hotel, or try something unique at the Delta King Hotel, a converted 1927 riverboat! For Airbnb, cross the river and save at this West Sac Townhome.

Many people overlook Sacramento, our capital city, when planning weekend getaways in the Bay Area. Maybe that’s because most of us associate the area with traffic – there’s literally always traffic on the way to Sac! But instead of passing by on your way to somewhere else, consider planning a weekend trip to Sacramento and see what it has to offer.

Sacramento’s main attractions are its museums: from the Sacramento Zoo to Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park to Crocker Art Museum, there’s something for everyone. You could explore Old Sacramento with its roots in the Gold Rush, or book an out-of-town whitewater rafting trip in the foothills of the Sierras.

San Francisco Staycation

  • Distance from San Francisco: 0 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 0 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Spring, Autumn
  • Accommodation Options: Splurge and stay on top of the town at the Fairmont San Francisco or opt for something funkier at the Hotel Triton. I always recommend this Mission Condo for an Airbnb option.

Okay, this may seem like a cop-out, but hear me out: if you’re planning to spend the money on a weekend getaway from San Francisco, why not spend that same money on a weekend staycation in San Francsco?

People rarely play tourist in their own hometown; if you live in the city, when’s the last time you strolled down the Embarcadero with fresh eyes, or wandered the alleys in Chinatown looking for delicious treats? That’s what makes an SF staycation so special!

I’ve got a guide to spending three days in San Francisco which you can use as a guide; I did that trip as a local, so it works just as well for a staycation as it does for a non-Bay Area person taking a vacation!

San Jose

  • Distance from San Francisco: 48 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 49 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Winter, Spring
  • Accommodation Options: The Hotel de Anza is a great option downtown, whereas the Hotel Valencia is perfect if you want to be a stone’s throw from the Winchester Mystery House. The Serene Casita is a great Airbnb alternative.

I personally think San Jose gets the short shrift a lot – people think of it as the center of VC funding and not much else. But San Jose has more to offer than you might think: great restaurants, cool street art, and some fun museums for family travelers. Oh, and we can’t forget the Winchester Mystery House, arguably San Jose’s most notorious tourist attractions.

I took a weekend trip to San Jose in 2019 and crammed all this in and more: we took the extra time to drive up into the Diablo Range to visit Lick Observatory. All this makes me confident that pretty much anything can find fun during a weekend in San Jose, no flight to a far-flung destination needed.

Santa Cruz

  • Distance from San Francisco: 75 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 75 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Autumn, Winter
  • Accommodation Options: Splurge at the Cliff Crest Inn or stay near the water at the Pacific Blue Inn. If you prefer Airbnbs, try Wave House.

If you’re from the East Coast and/or have visited Coney Island and/or just love the nostalgia of seaside funfairs, Santa Cruz is one of many perfect weekend getaways in the Bay Area. Santa Cruz is much more than its tourist-attracting boardwalk, but if you’re making a first trip to the seaside community, it’s a must-see anyway.

On your first trip to Santa Cruz, stay near the waterfront. You can spend the afternoon and evening exploring the Santa Cruz Wharf and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. At the former, keep an eye out for sea lions below the wharf and sea otters in the water.

Santa Rosa

  • Distance from San Francisco: 55 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 65 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Autumn, Winter, Spring
  • Accommodation Options: The Astro Motel is nice and close to downtown, but Safari West is one of the best places I’ve ever stayed. If you prefer an Airbnb, check out Garden Cottage.

Located within Sonoma County (more below), Santa Rosa is one of many cities and towns worth a weekend or longer if you have it. I spent a weekend in Santa Rosa in 2019 and loved it; I’ve been trying to find a way to get back for longer on my next trip.

While in Santa Rosa, you can explore downtown, which is home to delicious restaurants and a few great bars (including The Jade Room, pictured above, which is unfortunately closed), or head out to Safari West for a weekend among African animals that you’ll never forget. Don’t miss a stop at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Snoopy’s Home Ice, perfect for all fans of Peanuts (who isn’t?!).

Oh, and there are wineries and tasting rooms within city limits, too, of course!

Sausalito

  • Distance from San Francisco: 11 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 30 minutes by car, 25 minutes by ferry
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-round
  • Accommodation Options: Casa Madrona is the go-to spot, ideally placed near the ferry but not right on top of it.

I might be biased, but I think Sausalito is one of the best Bay Area weekend trips on this list…. maybe that’s because I live here!

When Mr. V and I moved out of Oakland, it was because we found somewhere in the Bay Area that we truly loved: Sausalito. This waterfront community is home to houseboats and marinas, seafood restaurants and dive bars that old sailor-types still haunt.

When planning a Bay Area weekend getaway to Sausalito, come by way of the Ferry, and stay at one of the four hotels in town (all within walking distance of the ferry). You can stroll along Bridgeway Promenade, wander and window shop along Princes Street, or be brave and head our way to dine along the waterfront or Caledonia Street, where most of our restaurants are located.

If you do decide to plan a trip to Sausalito, let me know: we can meet up for a Sausalito punch at No Name Bar!

Sonoma County

  • Distance from San Francisco: 65-75 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 75 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-Round
  • Accommodation Options: Depends on where you choose to go within the county!

Continuing on with our tour of wine country, no list of weekend getaways in the Bay Area is complete without mentioning Sonoma County. Equally good for a day trip, Sonoma County is – like Napa County – a wine lovers’ dream. There are 425 wineries so you can spend a lot more than a weekend here without running through them all.

But did you know there’s a lot more to Sonoma County than vineyards? You can explore Coastal Redwood forests of the Outer Northern Coast Range, or head all the way out to the Sonoma Coast – as picturesque as any part of the Pacific Coast.

Don’t worry though: even if you head to the coast, there are still some wineries out there, making creative and interesting wines.

Tiburon

Bay Area Weekend Trips - Tiburon
  • Distance from San Francisco: 17 miles
  • Travel Time from San Francisco: 35 minutes by car, 25 minutes by ferry
  • Best Season to Visit: Year-Round
  • Accommodation Options: As the name suggests, Waters Edge is a great choice; The Lodge at Tiburon is a good alternative. For an Airbnb option, this tiny Cottage by the Bay is your best bet.

Last, but certainly not least, we can’t overlook Tiburon, the next town over from where I live in Sausalito. Tiburon is accessible by car or ferry – it’s right across the water from Angel Island (a little bit of symmetry on this list).

You can spend the days of your weekend in Tiburon cycling or SUPing, then enjoy some of the great restaurants along the picturesque waterfront. For the best time, book a place to stay along the waterfront too, and enjoy the view of Angel Island, the Bay, and part of the city beyond.

There you have it – 19 of the best weekend trips in the Bay Area. The only question left is… which of these weekend getaways in the Bay Area will you plan first? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *